Published On: Fri, Jan 12th, 2024

Rishi Sunak commits £2.5bn in military aid during surprise visit to Ukraine | World | News

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak commits £2.5bn in military aid during surprise visit to Ukraine (Image: Getty)

Rishi Sunak vowed Britain will stand by Ukraine for “as long as it takes” in a surprise visit to Kyiv to announce £2.5 billion in military aid.

The Prime Minister said he wanted to send a strong signal to the war torn nation and its Russian invader that the UK is “not going anywhere”.

Hours after launching airstrikes on Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, Mr Sunak also warned any wavering in support for Ukraine would “embolden Vladimir Putin and “his allies in North Korea, Iran and elsewhere”.

At a press conference with president Volodymyr Zelensky, the PM said he was “proud” to sign a new security agreement with Ukraine

He said: “Ukraine is not alone, and Ukraine will never be alone. Putin might think that he can outlast us but he is wrong. We stand with you today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes.

“Because this war is about Ukraine’s right to defend itself and to determine your own future and the Ukrainian people’s historic choice to be an independent democracy at the heart of Europe.

“Your quest for freedom has inspired and moved the British people and for the free nations of the world, aid to Ukraine is also an investment in our own collective security.

“Because if Putin wins in Ukraine, he will not stop there, and our opponents around the world believe that we have neither the patience nor resources for long wars. So waver now and we emboldened not just Putin, but his allies in North Korea, Iran and elsewhere.

“That’s why the United Kingdom and the free world will continue to stand with Ukraine, as we have since the very beginning of this war.”

After holding an emergency Cabinet meeting before the military action in Yemen last night, the PM flew to Poland to take the overnight train into Ukraine.

It comes after the Ukrainian president pressed allies in the West to provide the country with more support to fight back against Russian forces amid fears the crisis in the Middle East has turned attention away from his country’s plight.

The Prime Minister and Mr Zelensky signed a new UK-Ukraine Agreement on Security Cooperation that commits the UK to providing swift aid and security support if Russia ever invades Ukraine again.

Britain is the first country to sign the pact after G7 countries agreed to put support on a formal footing last year at Nato.

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Mr Sunak announced the highest amount of UK military aid so far, rising by £200 million this year.

The £2.5 billion in funding will cover long-range missiles, air defence, artillery ammunition and maritime security as well as thousands of military drones.

“We are one of Ukraine’s most significant supporters, particularly when it comes to providing military aid,” Mr Sunak said.

“The aid that we’ve got in place already runs through to the early part of this year. So we’re acting in advance of that expiring with a new commitment of two and a half billion pounds – more than we’ve provided in previous years.

“That represents the seriousness of the situation here and our determination to stand with Ukraine. And that’s why I’m here on my first foreign visit of this year, the first foreign leader to visit Ukraine this year.”

Mr Sunak made his first visit to Ukraine in November 2022, weeks after entering Number 10.

The UK has been among the most vocal backers of Ukraine, with Mr Zelensky visiting London early last year in a historic trip.

President Zelensky thanked Mr Sunak for his “personal leadership” and the “whole of the UK” for its support as he awarded the PM the order of freedom honour recognising his “outstanding personal contribution”.

The honour was also bestowed on predecessor Boris Johnson when he led the West’s response to the initial invasion.

Mr Zelensky hailed the UK’s contribution and said it “really ranks first” as he thanked the British people for their support.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said the UK has proved its “unwavering” backing in Ukraine’s fightback against Russia.

He added: “Putin hoped the West would be distracted by events in the Middle East but today we’ve taken the critical step to increase our military support to Ukraine, to get them more of what they need to win.”

Funding for Ukraine totalled £2.3 billion a year in 2022 and 2023 but the Defence Secretary “wanted to go further”, according to government insiders.

But Mr Shapps was against calls for a multi-year settlement as it would mean there was less ability to respond to events on the ground in the future.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was “really important” that politicians remain focused and united on supporting Ukraine.

“We have had cross-party support for Ukraine for a very long time and we need to maintain that in the face of Russian aggression that has been going on for a long time now,” he said.

“So I’m supportive of what the Prime Minister is saying today and we will remain united across our political parties in defence of Ukraine against that aggression from Putin.”

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